Originally published at Prince Arthur Herald
On a recent episode of the original British Dragons' Den, a woman pitching her hair-extension business was asked by a Dragon about the numbers in her balance sheet. To which she replied, "What is a balance sheet?"
This whole pitch in the den created an impression not unlike the one I got from watching the pitch by Sun News Network to the CRTC recently. It was amazing to watch this sorry spectacle of Sun News' supposed A-listers trying to convince the regulator that their station deserved "mandatory carriage" -- and all that without having done their homework.
They sat there like little boys, snotty and pimple-faced, and couldn't give a straight answer no matter what the question was. The only "impressive" aspect about the hearing was Luc Lavoie, head of Sun News, whose deep and smoky voice would have been better suited for singing some chansons in a Parisian bar. But he, too, hadn't done his homework and therefore kept talking about apples when asked about oranges.
I'm not calling for Sun News Network to be shut down, far from it. Anything that has a market should be allowed to remain in business. But that's the problem: Sun News doesn't have a market even though, contrary to the misinformation peddled by the broadcaster, it is literally available to any Canadian who's willing to subscribe to a cable or satellite service that carries the channel (and there is at least one provider in every part of Canada that does). That more viewers haven't done so is proof that Sun News is selling a product that hardly anyone wants.
Pointing fingers at the CBC and its (favourable) carriage on cable systems isn't helping, as this, again, is a comparison of apples and oranges. First, Canadians are already paying taxes for the CBC, so it only makes sense to make its channels readily available on the "dial." Second, CBC Newsworld is a news channel, whereas Sun News is an opinion channel, which makes it a niche or specialist, rather than general-interest, broadcaster. (For the record: having Sun News staffers interview other Sun News staffers, who then proceed to express their personal views and opinions on news events, doesn't qualify as news but opinion.)
Having entered the market as a defender of freedom and a free market economy, Sun News has destroyed any credibility it once had for now espousing the principles of a planned and government-run economy. When you preach on the screen one philosophy, but behind the scenes pursue the exact opposite, as Sun News has done, the only surprising fact that remains is that its viewership hasn't already dropped to zero altogether.
Indeed, it is only a handful of fans of the station who are still willing to look past this hypocrisy, but they don't qualify as conservatives or libertarians any longer either.
Just take Kevin O'Leary as an example. This believer in capitalism and a free market economy, who appears on CBC and not on Sun News, would never sell out his principles the way the makers of Sun News have. It's quite simple really: you either believe that products and services are controlled by consumers and their desire to obtain them, or you don't. You can't be half-pregnant.
In a way, though, I don't fault the Sun News boys for doing a one-eighty. None other than the prime minister, Stephen Harper, set a bad example: getting himself elected as a conservative, he quickly -- virtually the day after being sworn in -- went about implementing Big Government and Big Spending programs, all of which continues to this day to everyone's detriment.
Having thus been taught a lesson in Conservatism, Harper-Style, Sun News is merely trying to emulate its idol. It still doesn't change the fact, however, that this "school of thought" is not about conservatism, or any other ideology proper, but instead all about hypocrisy, power, influence and ambition.
TV subscribers should not be forced to pay for something like that against their will.